The reason for stopping at Katakolon is really only to make the trip to Olympia, the birth place of the modern day Olympic Games. We are in the area known as the Peloponnese, the knob at the bottom of Greece. It is separated from the rest of Greece by the late 19th century man made Corinth Canal. The region is heavily focussed on agriculture. There are just acres and acres of olive groves, vineyards and orchards, mostly oranges and apricots. Also watermelons and strawberries on the ground. It is a very pretty drive to Olympia.
The first ‘games’ began in 776 BC, although it seems there were more simpler versions occurring here going back to the 1100s BC. The games were essentially a religious event, competing to please the gods in the first instance. There was only a winner no seconds or thirds. Various running events, spear and discus throwing, wrestling and related sorts of pastimes took place. Horse and chariot races took place in the Hippodrome. Women did not participate and competitors were naked. Winners made sacrifices to the gods, there are enormous temples to Zeus and his wife Hera. Much of the building activity took place around the mid 400s BC. It is outside the entrance to Hera’s temple that the altar is located where the torch is lit at the start of the torch relay for the modern Olympics.
The Games were stopped by the Christian Roman emperors at the end of the 4th century AD, and Olympia ceased functioning as a pagan religious sanctuary. The area today is really a mix of ruins, with some restorations to highlight the great scale of the place. Olympia was devastated by earthquakes around 520 AD which together with the effects of continual river flooding buried and swept away sections of the monuments and artifacts.
Sporadically through the 1800s the site was explored by French and German archaeologists, with most work happening between 1875 and WW11. What we found fascinating was the great detail that is known about the site. Where the buildings are located. Their intricate design, contents and purpose. The source of all this is the ancient written historical Greek records of the times.